UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Skylar Diggins hadnt even played her first professional game at Mohegan Sun Arena, home of the Connecticut Sun, yet she was already getting noticed.
I met some fans, theyre like, oh, youre that Diggins, Skylar said, the morning of her game against the Sun on July 2, an 88-69 Connecticut victory. Theyll just say my name and keep walking. Or theyll say, oh my god, youre Diggins. We appreciated you. We loved watching you play. We hated it when you played against us but now that youre gone
Thats the line I get now.
The fans in Connecticut are obviously referring to the many time Diggins and her Notre Dame squared off against their beloved University of Connecticut the four years prior.
In fact, when told that this weeks diary entry would be about her rivals -- most notably the one with the team whose home state she was now back in -- Diggins immediately become animated.
I had some (rivals), Skylar said with a smile. One in particular.
The fierce rivalry -- in which Notre Dame actually won seven of the last nine meetings, but lost the last edition in the 2013 Final Four became the premier matchup in womens college basketball, replacing Connecticut-Tennessee, while Skylar was in South Bend.
In college this was the most watched game in the NCAA over the past couple of years, Diggins said. There were so many good players, two great Hall of Fame coaches, just so much talent on the court and two teams that had an utter dislike for each other. You didnt have to say it, everybody knew it, just how we competed with each other. You got bodies flying everywhere. You got so much emotion in the game and how loud the fans were and how emotional the fans were.
Even Diggins, one of the most popular players in college basketball and a three-time All-American by the time she graduated, wasnt immune to taunts by opposing fans.
If we were in Hartford or Storrs it didnt matter, fans were right on top of you, remembered Diggins, who also interned at ESPN in Bristol, Conn. the summer heading into her senior year. They were loud, the student section in particular. They let you know how they felt about you. Theyd call you out by name and tell you what they dont like.
The Sun feature four former UConn players, including fellow rookie Kelly Faris, who Diggins called a workhorse, but Diggins says the player-to-player rivalries from college, at least from what shes experienced so far, dont translate into the WNBA.
She did, however, say that she stays close with her former teammates who were fortunate enough to also make the WNBA.
Its great to see my teammates in the past and Notre Dame players down the line being in the league and being a part of the league because its tough to get here, Diggins said. Its just great to have players representing your university be around, be able to talk to them, see them, maybe go out to dinner.
In particular, Diggins says she has seen Minnesota Lynx forward Devereaux Peters, the No. 3 pick in the WNBA Draft the year before Skylar was, several times the past two years.
As far as team rivalries, nothing in the WNBA has come close to Notre Dame-Connecticut, Diggins said, and its most likely the nature of the league that facilitates that. Diggins asked close friend and five-year WNBA veteran Candice Wiggins about rivalries when she was playing in Minnesota and her quick response may sum up the state of the league the best.
We didnt like nobody, Wiggins said with a laugh.
Wiggins went on to jokingly describe the 12-team league as a gang fight where everybodys fighting and the rivalries change year-to-year.
If not for heated team rivalries, Diggins has enjoyed some notable head-to-head matchups. Diggins highlighted her meetings with Los Angeles Lindsey Harding and Minnesotas Lindsay Whalen as her toughest thus far.
Theyre both really experienced point guards and play on really good teams and they know how to run those teams, Skylar said. Im just trying to learn from them in the way they read and probe off the screen and the changes of speed and quickness and just their ability to read the defense. Those are players that I grew up watching, specifically with Harding, and you know, Candice is my friend so Ive been to a lot of Lynx games and watching those players play, so those are two players and point guards that I really pay attention too.
Given her adversarial history with that one particular team in the state, it safe to say that it was Diggins who was receiving the extra attention in Connecticut.